Maintaining motivation

I’m now on to Day 3 of the World’s Biggest Juice Detox and it’s tough going at the moment! For anyone just joining, this is a 28 day juice challenge – the idea is to drink my food for the next four weeks, leading to a healthier, slimmer me, and kickstarting a new lifestyle.

On days like this, I need a bit of extra motivation, so I thought I’d look at some of the things that are keeping me going.

1) Holding on to the facts. I know from what other people have said, and from my own past experience, that the first few days are likely to be the worst. At some point it will get better. For some people, this may be all they need to keep pushing on, but I will admit that for me, it isn’t quite enough, and I need to dig a bit deeper.

2) Remembering why I’m doing it. I want to feel healthier, and slimmer is a bit of a bonus, but to be honest it’s not the driving force for me. In fact, when I really think about it, the main reason I want this is because I want to do something for myself that is positive, nourishing, and good for me. I live the sort of lifestyle (as I’m sure many of you do) where a lot of people are asking a lot of things of me; I do genuinely like to do it, but I have realised lately that it’s wearing me down, because I’m not leaving time to do things for *myself* as well. In some ways, I feel like my Boxing Day purge has let out all of the stress and guilt that I was holding on to, and I finally feel like I deserve it.

I’m going to give this a new paragraph all to itself because I think it’s really important. It may sound silly, it may sound fake, or it may be too hard to hear at times, but we all deserve to feel well, healthy, attractive, and confident. I deserve to take some time for myself to do this juice programme, and I deserve to feel healthier at the end of it. Regardless of what has gone in the past, how I have treated my body, I deserve the right to make a change, and I AM WORTH THE EFFORT that it will take. It’s something that I would say without a second thought to a friend who was struggling, but until I really faced up to myself I honestly think that deep down I didn’t feel I deserved to be slim and healthy. (If you’re reading this and it’s resonating with you, I’d just like to categorically say that YOU ARE WORTH IT TOO.)

3) Being kind to myself. This programme has a great little safety net, called ‘Hunger SOS’. It basically means that if you’re really struggling one day, you can just go and eat something. Something healthy, obviously, and not in great quantities, but just because you’ve had half a banana it doesn’t mean that you have to throw the whole thing out of the window. It’s not about being on a diet, or ‘cheating’, it’s just about making a choice. Yesterday afternoon and this morning I’ve felt genuinely hungry, and so I’ve had a few of the leftover vegetables from my husbands tea (roast parsnips – yum!). This morning I found that – even though I felt like I was ravenous – after a couple of bites I’d had enough. (As an aside, it turned out that I was more thirsty than hungry, but they feel surprisingly similar!)

So those are my top tips, and what I’ll be hanging on to for the rest of this week. If you’ve got any more suggestions then let me know! If you’re on the detox as well – go for it! Hang in there, and comment below to let me know how you’re doing 🙂

Cat x

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New Year, new you, and all that…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of starting afresh in January, as it seems like a crazy idea to me. It’s so cold and miserable, and heaving yourself back in to normal life after the Christmas break is hard enough already without trying to keep up a dozen New Year’s Resolutions as well. Bah humbug (if that’s still a thing once Christmas is over).

The trouble with a lot of goal setting (whether it’s New Year related or just a mini resolution all for yourself) is that it’s not specific enough. You can say something like “This year I’m going to eat more healthily” but what does that actually MEAN? If you normally get through twelve bars of chocolate a week and cut down to eleven, you are technically keeping to your resolution even though you are not eating healthily by any stretch of the imagination.

Some people might set a goal of eating more healthily, cut out one chocolate bar a week and feel that they have achieved what they wanted, or at least made a start. Others might make exactly the same resolution, reach exactly the same point, and feel like they’ve failed. If you’re not specific enough with what you’re aiming for not only will the goal be harder to achieve (if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you know when you get there?) but it may stop you from noticing and celebrating the small steps along the way. Cutting out that one bar of chocolate may be a fairly small thing but it’s a step in the right direction, and deserves to be acknowledged as such.

After all my griping about resolutions, it may surprise you to learn that I’m doing a *thing* this January (the timing is merely coincidental, I can assure you!). I’m joining in the World’s Biggest Juice Detox and going completely juicy for 28 days. Yes, that’s right – for the next 28 days I will be living entirely off freshly made juices and smoothies. It’s going to be a challenge (I’ve done 7 days before and that was bad enough) and I’m going to be recording my progress on this blog.

For me, one of the most important things heading in to a challenge like this is being really clear on WHY I’m doing it, why it’s important, and why I’m not going to give up – there are going to be tough moments over the next four weeks and I’m going to need to revisit this over and over again to keep myself focused. I’ve already waffled enough in this post, but if you’re interested I’ll share my story in the next post, and my motivations for doing this, and doing it right now.

If you’re reading this and you’re also on the detox – good luck! Comment below to let me know how you’re getting on 🙂

Cat x

Taking the leap

This blog post started out called ‘Why you shouldn’t have to get a proper job’. It was going to be about working for yourself, how it’s ok if you feel stifled by the 9-5, and how we are funnelled from school in to work without necessarily realising that there’s another option. However, as I wrote it I realised it was taking another direction. I expect I’ll still write the original post at some point, but today it turns out there’s a little bit of my personal story that wants to come out…

I recently had reason to compile an employment history, going back ten years. After quite a lot of effort, I ended up with a list of seventeen different places I had worked during that time – and I’m not convinced that I got all of them! It might be fair to assume that I was temping, or that these were fairly unskilled, disposable sort of jobs. Perhaps I was no good and kept getting fired? And where is my career progression?

The truth is, I don’t have what most people would term a ‘proper job’. I have had them in the past; the seventeen I managed to list included teaching A levels, working as a research associate at a university, and mentoring vulnerable young people.

But here’s what it boils down to – the ‘normal’ sorts of jobs that I had been conditioned to aspire to just don’t suit me. Although I have almost always enjoyed the day-to-day work, I so often felt restricted, or like I couldn’t quite do what I wanted to with the role, or make it as good as I thought it could be. I got bored with doing the same stuff, day in day out, and could never spend more than a couple of years in a job before I started to feel stale. And really – I don’t like spending my time fulfilling someone else’s agenda.

Accepting that doing this sort of job was not working out for me was a challenge, and came along with a lot of guilt and uncertainty. ‘Get a proper job’ had been so ingrained in to my life plan from an early age I almost felt like I’d failed, or like there was something wrong with me because I felt so uncomfortable doing it. I spent a number of years working freelance on the side, trying to build up experience and contacts so I could ‘one day’ leave work and do what I actually wanted to do. Of course, I had to put my ‘real job’ first, so I was never able to spare enough time to get my own stuff to a stage where it was much more than a hobby.

Then ‘one day’, I just decided to do it. I had been working a few short-term contracts which were coming to an end, and I quite simply decided not to try and get them renewed, and not to look for anything else. It was wonderfully liberating, and utterly terrifying.

In case you are reading this assuming that I must have had a nice financial cushion to support me making this leap let me set the scene: I was a single mum, living in a flat on the outskirts of Oxford. I had a few thousand pounds in savings, which I’d managed to scrape together by working about five different jobs. I was on tax credits and housing benefit.

Looking back, I have no idea how I had the courage to take the leap. In actual fact I don’t remember that time of my life very clearly – I was living moment to moment just trying to get by, skirting round the edge of depression, and just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I was often up working until the early hours of the morning, as well as in any snatched moment that I could, just to make sure I fulfilled my contracted hours. Most weeks I would drop my daughter off at ballet on a Monday afternoon, and then sit on the floor in the entrance hall studying, making notes, or planning things for the next day – I couldn’t even justify taking time out for that half an hour. I wasn’t really living, just existing.

Naturally, my daughter suffered too. I was so exhausted from work I barely had the energy to play with her, not to mention the fact that it was hard to be truly in the moment with her while my mind wandered off to the huge pile of work that awaited as soon as she was in bed.

Giving up work was a massive leap of faith – I had no idea what was going to happen, or how I was going to survive. I had a bit of work lined up, and I had taken over the running of a local festival (on a voluntary basis) so my vague plan was to build that to the point where it provided me with a living. How I was going to do that, I didn’t have a clue, but I knew that I *had* to make it work.

It’s now nearly three years since I gave up employment, and I can honestly say that I’ve not regretted it for a second. I still work as hard as ever, and there are still times when it’s stressful and I feel like I’m being pulled in twenty different directions. However the single biggest difference is that I have total control over what I do and don’t do. If I don’t like the ethos of an individual or an organisation, I don’t work with them. I decide how much I’m worth paying, and charge my clients accordingly. I structure my working day to fit around my daughter so I pick her up from school every day – and when I take her to ballet I take a trashy novel to read!

So here’s what I would like to say to you today: so many people will tell you to face your fears, take the leap, push yourself, make that huge decision. For me, it wasn’t like that at all – it was simply realising that I was worth more than the life I had created for myself. I deserved better; my daughter deserved better. Taking the leap wasn’t a huge catastrophic thing, it was like a sigh of relief and a gift to myself all rolled in to one – albeit quite a scary one!

I was going to write that something about knowing I was going to make it work because I had no other option, but that’s not quite true; as a qualified teacher I always knew I had that to fall back on, if I got really desperate. To be honest, I could have got a job in Tesco if I got really desperate. The truth is I gave myself no other option, because I simply could not bear to let myself live that way again.

So, over to you. Is that vague feeling of unsatisfaction enough for you to make a change in your life? How bad will it need to get before you do something about it? Be honest with yourself – you may not be as miserable as I was, but are you worth more than the life you are living at the moment?

If so, I urge you to take the leap. You may just surprise yourself.

Cat x

Going to the gym.. no I really am going.. honest.

I’m trying to get fit at the moment. I don’t just mean fitter, because that implies some basic level of ‘fit’ to improve on. I’d even settle for fit-ish to be honest.

I have been to the gym this morning. I’m supposed to go three times a week, however last week I went once, and the week before I’m not sure I managed it at all. But here’s the thing – whenever I do make it to the gym, I do quite enjoy it. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that thinking about going to the gym is far worse than actually doing it.

I could spend the rest of this blog post speculating about why that is, but I don’t think that’s a particularly helpful question at this stage, so here’s the one I’m going with:

How can I get myself down the gym even when I don’t want to go?

Seeing as I’m going to attempt two more trips this week, I thought I’d better try to answer this question, so I can refer back to it later if necessary. Here’s what I have come up with so far:

– Don’t think about it (this was my tactic this morning). Decide that you are going (preferably the night before when it’s a safe distance away), and then refuse to think about it again.

– Arrange everything beforehand so that it’s easy for you to do it. This morning I put everything in my car that I would need before I did the school run, then when I got back I didn’t need to go in the house for anything, and didn’t risk a sneaky sit down turning in to a two-hour email marathon.

– Tie it to another activity, so that in your head both are linked – this morning for me this was the school run and going straight to the gym afterwards.

– Arrange a reward for afterwards (no, not cake). My gym has a jacuzzi so sometimes I bribe myself with a relax in the bubbles afterwards.

– Realise that, no matter how important it seems to reply to this email RIGHT NOW (or finish that game of Candy Crush), actually the world is not going to end if you take an hour out for yourself.  I have started to see the gym as some me-time, and as something that I am doing for myself, to improve my health and fitness, and general quality of life. It’s very easy to lose yourself in the demands of other people, and it’s a really important and special thing to be able to set aside some time that is just for you.

If you’ve got any more tips about getting yourself to the gym, please comment below – I may need some backup on the days when even my top five aren’t cutting it!

Now, I just need to see if I can apply these principles to doing my tax return…. 😉

Cat x

How to Make Stuff Happen

Well, the pressure’s on now! Having decided to write an inspirational blog to show that ordinary people can be awesome, I now have to work out what to write…!

A couple of years ago I was working through an exercise which asked you to look at a situation where you had achieved something, and pick apart what it was that you did in order to do that thing. No matter how much you might think that things ‘just happen’, there are always steps that we go through (consciously or unconsciously) in order to get to that place. If you can pinpoint what it is that you do when you are at your most successful, then you can use this formula and apply it to other situations which may seem challenging.

The example I picked was when I first started running a festival, which had been a dream of mine since university. My formula for success turned out something like this:

– First I gathered a team of people round me who also wanted to make it happen, and were committed to helping me to do it.

– I had good reasons why I HAD to make it work. It was something I desperately wanted to do, and in addition to that, it was something that I felt was important for my local community and something that ought to be happening – if I could do it, then I should do it. Those are good enough reasons to try, but I realised I also had something else – something worth losing if it didn’t work out. The three key things for me were my reputation, my pride, and the money I faced losing – failure was simply not an option. It wasn’t a case of trying and seeing whether it worked, I was going to MAKE it work whether it wanted to or not.

– I committed to it emotionally. It was a big risk, and I had to accept that and the fear associated with that as part of the committment. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid, or that I didn’t worry – but that I accepted that fear as part of the process and didn’t let it stop me doing what I wanted to do.

– On the practical side of things, I worked out a broad timescale of what needed doing and when. Which were the big important milestones? When did I need to have these decisions made by? I focused on the big stuff, and left the little bits to sort themselves out along the way.

– I did the bulk of the work in a few large chunks; put in the time, got stuff done, and then it needed a relatively small input on a regular basis to keep it ticking over.

– I shouted about it A LOT. I got in everyone’s face, whenever possible; I never left the house without a leaflet or business card that I could press on to an unsuspecting potential punter, I took posters and programmes to meetings and handed them out to people who thought they were attending to talk about something else entirely, and I actively searched out any opportunity to put myself in front of people where there was a vague chance they might be interested.

– It was on my mind all the time. Everywhere I went, everything I did, I would be thinking about potential for the festival. Four years later I am still doing the same thing – every time I walk in to a building I find myself running a quick mental check of how it could work as a venue!

– And finally, always have an end in mind. I’m not necessarily talking about having a detailed plan of everything that’s going to happen; I often have no idea what my project is going to look like at the end, but I always have some sort of concept or goal in mind. For me personally, this often relates to how something is going to feel when it’s working out right, or the way in which people are going to react to it. For you it might be a picture, or a mental image, or perhaps you’re that person who details out every step of the way! For the festival, I had a firm, unshakeable belief from the start that I wanted to run an event that the local community would feel a part of, and feel ownership of. That intention influenced every decision I made, and was the thing that helped to mould the concept of the festival as it grew in my head. Having an intention or goal simplifies things, because every decision can be boiled down to whether it takes you further away from your goal or moves you towards it.

So that’s a rough guide to how I get stuff done – but your way may be completely different! I would really encourage you to take some time to think about a time when you did something successfully, and analyse the steps you took in that process. What are the values that stand out for you? What were the beliefs underpinning your actions?

I’d be really interested to hear how you get on – drop me a line in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter!

Cat x